Report on Carnival fire suggests safety changes

NEW YORK -- In a preliminary report on the July 1998 fire aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Ecstasy, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that Carnival and other cruise operators make more than a dozen changes to upgrade equipment and safety procedures.

NTSB said the smoky fire, which occurred within range of television news helicopters and made national newscasts, was probably caused by crew members performing "unauthorized welding" in the ship's laundry room in violation of Carnival's company guidelines.

NTSB said the absence of fire alarms and extinguishers on the aft mooring deck contributed to the fire's spread and the subsequent damage.

The ship also lacked emergency phones in crew cabins, delaying the rescue of two crew members, said Donald Tyrell, a chief NTSB investigator.

Tyrell said all rooms aboard cruise ships should contain emergency call systems so help can be located quickly.

NTSB's nonbinding report also recommended that cruise lines install new sprinkler systems on mooring decks.

A Carnival Corp. spokesman said the company has implemented several of NTSB's recommendations and was evaluating others, including additional methods of calling for help during fires.

The blaze ignited laundry lint in the ship's ventilation system, which traveled to Ecstasy's stern, igniting mooring lines. The ship then lost power and began drifting.

The fire resulted in minor injuries to 14 crew members and eight passengers among the 3,481 aboard the ship and caused $17 million in damage.


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